Causes and outcomes
The predominant cause of erythroplakia is the use of tobacco products, both smokeless and in cigarette form. Pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco can all play a part, along with alcohol, which naturally increases the risk of a cancerous development. Sometimes, however, long-term irritation from ill-fitting dentures or fractured teeth can be the culprit. Biological factors such as age and persistent viral infections (especially human papillomavirus, such as HPV 16) have been known to contribute as well.
Prevention and early diagnosis can only be achieved by visiting your dentist regularly. Your dentist is uniquely qualified to examine the entire oral cavity – including the tonsils, upper throat and areas outside your head and neck – to check for swelling, palpable nodes or similar growths. Ultimately, your dentist or dental hygienist will ask you about your habits and guide you on the steps you can take to improve your oral health.
Avoiding these risky habits will help to curb this premalignant condition, but if a suspicious lesion is found, identifying it earlier rather than later is important. Because most oral cancers are "squamous cell carcinomas" found in the mucosa or lining of the mouth, this early diagnosis – combined with timely and appropriate treatment – will reduce the chances of the abnormal cells becoming a malignant condition.